BY CHAD BIRD
When I was a kid, I roamed the alleys and nearby fields with a pocket full of pebbles and a slingshot in hand. My grandfather had carved me the slingshot from the fork of a mesquite tree, native to our New Mexico soil. I’d even burned my name into the wood using the sun and a magnifying glass. As you might expect, my favorite Sunday School story was David and Goliath. In my make-believe world, I was that boy from Bethlehem, and sparrows the Philistine giants. It felt good to be the hero who takes down the foe. I was but a boy. I was new to the world. I loved Bible stories about saints who conquered.
When I became a man, I roamed the highways and byways of this world with a pocketful of dreams and a degree in my hand. There were ladders to climb, and I climbed them. I carved out a place for myself in this world. I had a bright, secure future. My favorite Bible story remained David and Goliath, for I saw myself in him, conquering this, and overcoming that. I was the boy from Bethlehem, only now a man, and giants were my prey. It felt good to be on top, making my place in the world. I still loved Bible stories about saints who conquered.
You know where this story is going, don’t you? You can feel it in your gut. Who knows, maybe I’m in the middle of telling your story. Let’s make it our story, why don’t we. And let’s tell it like it is.
When I became a man, I became a man like David. Like the David who, instead of going out to war, stayed home and fell prey to lust, to fear, to lies, to murder, to cover-up, and finally to repentance and forgiveness. When I became a man, I became a man like Noah, who planted a vineyard, got wasted, and fell asleep naked as a jaybird. When I became a man, I became a man like Abraham, who lied about his wife and put her life and chastity in danger just to save his own neck. When I became a man, I became a man like Judah the prostitute-user, Aaron the idol-maker, Gideon the doubter, and the list goes on and on. “Show me a hero,” F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “and I’ll write you a tragedy.” @@Show me a prideful man, I would add, and I’ll write about his downfall.@@
Over the last ten years or so, I’ve looked very little at the story of David and Goliath. And I’ve often wished that during my Sunday School days, I’d have learned the other stories about David, the embarrassing stories, the narratives of moral failure; the sordid details of lives that come unraveled when men and women show their true colors. When their lust and selfishness and greed and hunger for power knock them off their self-made thrones into deep and dank piles of dung. I wish I’d drunk in those stories in my youth, for when I needed them, they were not yet my stories. I lived them, then, I read them. And as I read them, I saw my own narrative bleeding between the lines of these OT saints who were sinful to the core, just like me.
When I became a man, I realized that I was not God. I was not even a hero. I was just one more lost soul, a walking corpse wrapped in transgressions and sins, wallowing in graveyard dirt.
When I was that man, God made me a child again—and not just any child, but His child. He rolled up His sleeves to dig through the deep and dank pile of dung into which I had fallen and pulled me out. You’d have thought I smelled like a rose, so close did He hold me. And He washed me (God, did He wash me!) behind the ears, inside the soul, between my toes, until every speck of dirt and every hint of dung, was bathed away. And He took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said, “Chad, I have taken your sin away; you shall not die.”
And I became like God’s child David, whom the Lord pardoned of his adultery and murder. I became like Noah, Abraham, Judah, Aaron, Gideon, and so many more wayward children, whom the Lord did not treat like trash but treasure. He called them to repentance, He called them to Himself, and most importantly He called them His own.
All our stories, all our tragedies, all our downfalls are retold in the story of the cross. The blood, which spilled from the veins of our Lord, is the ink that rewrites our personal narratives. The account which our Father reads of our lives is the story of Jesus washing us, holding us, dying for us, rising for us, and living His life through us even now. It is the story of grace. It is the story of second and third and fourth and thousandth chances to begin anew in the Savior who makes all things new.
We need less Goliath, and more Bathsheba, in the stories we tell ourselves, our children, our friends and neighbors. Show me a sinner, and I’ll write you a story of a God who saves them. Show me a man with a scarlet letter, and I’ll show you divine blood that dyes that letter white as snow so that it stands now for “Absolved,” “Atoned,” “Alive.” Show me broken hearts and broken lives and I’ll show you the God who’s never met a heart or life He won’t mend.
@@I now love Bible stories about sinners—about drunks and liars and cheats.@@ Because in them all I find the greater story of a God who so loved a world of drunks and liars and cheats that He bled and died and rose again to redeem it. That is really The Story, the best story. The story that’s not about saints who conquer but the Christ who overcomes all that He might have us as His own.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.